The next time you go to the movies, and there is a high-speed shot of a car chase, consider for a second how that scene was shot. Some may be filmed from a plane or helicopter, but far more likely is it that the epic chase scene was shot from a vehicle that’s epic in its own right.
Marshall and brother Jon Chabot of Chase Car Inc. are the minds behind some of the baddest chase vehicles in the business. “Chase vehicles” and “chase cars” are custom vehicles that serve as platforms for camera gear. They can carry large robotic cranes, and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cameras, monitors, wires and more. This is all on top of a $160,000 Porsche Panamera Turbo.
Chabot has been in the chase vehicle industry since 1997 and says the business has changed drastically in the last decade. “We were taking Chevy 3500’s, stripping from the cab back,” says Chabot, “We’d build full platforms on the front and back, our own air ride suspension, and setups for the cranes.”
According to Marshall, around 2001 is when the industry started to change. As electronic servos could allow camera crews to remotely operate rigs, the platforms did not have to be as large. Around the same time, the automotive industry began to change as well. An influx of luxury SUVs delivered many of the attributes that crews were looking for, without costly custom builds.
At the time, Marshall had been working at Camera Car Industries, where they acquired an ML55 AMG. Following its use, they purchased Porsche Cayennes. They featured a lower center of gravity and the advanced suspension that Marshall had been building out on the 1-ton pickups.
As the luxury vehicles became more advanced, certain elements of the rig did not need to be built. This has culminated with the Porsche Panamera and the creation Chase Car Inc. with the intent of using the Panameara for providing high-speed chase services.
Marshall admits that he is impressed with how little needed to be modified on the Panamera, “We did not touch the suspension, electronics or engine- we didn’t even need to reinforce the roof!” He continued, “I was amazed at how it handled. It has a two-foot lower center of gravity than the Cayenne.”
To say the builds have become simpler due to the advanced vehicles is a disservice to the efforts of the Marshall and his company. These vehicles are still highly complicated and take months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to build.
Marshall’s brother Jon starts out by adhering a matte-black wrap, which is as functional as it is badass! Monitors, wiring, and a canopy roof rack are added, and that’s just the start. Jon builds an operator’s post in the rear fastback area of the Panamera, reminiscent of the Sport Turismo concept. The piéce de résistance is the $300,000 Scorpio crane and $500,000 Scorpio head, allowing the camera to be fully remote controlled by the client, who provides their own camera.
According to Marshall, Chase Car Inc. is the first in the industry to use a Panamera for this setup. It was finished in back in December of 2012 and others are building similar rigs– some have already been completed.. It looks like for road shoots, the Panamera will be the future of chase vehicles. So consider, the next time you see that car chase, what exactly is driving the camera behind it!